On Thursday 11 July, the County Council’s Executive Member for Recreation and Heritage, Councillor Seán Woodward, welcomed delegates to Butser Hill, a National Nature Reserve at Queen Elizabeth Country Park near Petersfield. He said: “We take conservation very seriously in Hampshire. The county is home to many significant species, and includes important habitats. There are 10 National Nature Reserves in Hampshire, five of which are managed by the Council’s Countryside Service.
“We are therefore very pleased to welcome Natural England for these key meetings, and to work with them to shape the future of these important sites. These Reserves are vital areas of protection for precious habitats, and also provide excellent opportunities for research, education and for people simply to enjoy their wonderful wildlife.”
National Nature Reserves (NNRs) were established to protect some of the country’s most important habitats, species and geology, and to provide ‘outdoor laboratories’ for research. Most NNRs offer opportunities to schools, interest groups and the public to experience wildlife at first hand, and learn more about nature conservation.
The County Council co-hosted two days of presentations and discussions about Natural England’s Strategy for NNRs. It included speakers from Natural England; the South Downs National Park; Hampshire Biological Information Centre and Hampshire County Council’s own Countryside officers. The conference included visits to two nearby NNRs; Old Winchester Hill, managed by Natural England, and the County Council-run Butser Hill.
Attendees came from Natural England NNRs from across the south west region, as well as South Downs National Park officers, local farmers and representatives from the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust.
Robert Lloyd, Team Leader for Natural England in Hampshire said: “Natural England and Hampshire County Council manage most of Hampshire’s NNRs and our close working relationship has forged some great partnerships especially at Martin Down NNR and at Lepe Country Park. We are about nature and connecting people to nature. These fabulous sites have a wealth of wildlife that can brim over into the wider landscape, and they are easy for people to enjoy. NNRs are central to initiatives such as Farmer Clusters that aim to reconnect wildlife across our landscapes.”
The Strategy for England’s National Nature Reserves was launched in 2016 by Natural England and sets the direction for NNRs individually and as a national series. The central concept is that NNRs should brim over, contributing to more wildlife rich landscapes and offering more ways in which people can be involved with these special sites. The NNR Strategy is coordinated by a group representing organisations that manage NNRs, and Hampshire County Council is a member of this group.